Spiritual Disciplines

"Celebration of Discipline"

If you want to be really good at something you have to be devoted to working at that skill.

Paco de Lucia:
3:40-4:00 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C97H_HvBjPA

A great guitarist does not wake up one day and become a legend. It takes disciplined work.

The same is true with a great athlete.
Natural skill can carry an athlete through lower levels of competition, but the really great players work hard to be the best.

It's not only what that person DOES to become great - it is also what that person chooses NOT TO DO.

Dedication is not just working at your craft or skill, but saying "No" to the thousand other things that can distract you from your craft or skill.

Being "strong" in your faith is very similar.

The scriptures speak to this in various places, but we are not given any lengthy discourse which makes this a somewhat subjective topic.

Paul gives us a few short statements. This is one of them:
24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. 26 Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. 27 No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize. 1 Cor 9:24-27

+ + + PRAYER + + +

Statements like this are helpful, but historically have also opened the door to problems and abuse.

So before I move forward I want to note the balance. [6 min]

We are saved by God's grace, not by our spiritual work.
Spiritual disciplines are good and help us to grow.
They help us identify our sinful weaknesses and, I think, help us to stop feeding the weaknesses, the parts of ourselves that are addicted to feeling good...self-gratification.

All of us have a natural tendency to want an easy life with no hardship...no hard work...we all want to just kick back and enjoy the good things of life.

To use another metaphor:
Spiritual disciplines are like an aspect of farming.
To grow food or flowers you plant seed and make sure it gets water and sunshine (those come from God).

The spiritual disciplines are pulling the weeds that can grow up around the crops or flowers - the weeds might not even kill the peas or melons or flowers - but the weeds can stump the growth by stealing the necessary nutrients AND the weeds hide the true product.

The problem is:
The disciplines also flow from "self."
What can "I" do to make "myself" more holy, or more like Christ.

Many Christian writers who have pursued spiritual greatness comment on this dilemma.

The more holy you try to become, the more prone you are to spiritual pride...which is sinful "self." And you can become addicted to spiritual disciplines.

The personality type, like mine, that is easily captivated by thrill of "success," and "winning"...can be captivated by the draw of doing something that "works."

Many spiritual writers refer to this pursuit of God as the metaphor of climbing the spiritual ladder...from the dream of Jacob - thus, Jacob's ladder.

[SLIDE - Cop and Robber]
So you have the "ego" robber climbing the ladder to heaven.
"Ego," we kind of see as a negative.
Ego is the Greek word that means "I," first person singular.

"I" want to know God:
- "I" want to avoid Hell
- "I" want to be blessed
- "I" want to be happy

As I try to climb the ladder to God I realize that my own sinfulness keeps me from the pursuit. So "I" decide to buckle down, do some spiritual exercises to make "myself" stronger.

This is the "Discipline Cop."
The spiritual exercises are good, but they are driven by "self" and "self" brings with it other less godly motivations.

"I did this 5 times, look at the result.
What if I do it 50 times?"

You can become drawn by the "competition:"
- to be more spiritual than your peers
- or to receive the praise of others who value the "results" of your spiritual discipline.

And so our spiritual exercises can, in a subtle way, become more about looking good in the eyes of others or being better than those around you.

I find out that you spend 30 minutes in a devotional time?
I'm going to do an hour so I can be MORE spiritual than you.

Some have become enthralled with idea that fasting seems to get prayers answered...so let's fast more.

As if fasting and prayer is like a slot machine...if you keep putting your quarters in you are going to win!

And so our spiritual exercises become our way of getting God to do OUR will...come on God, this is what "I want." Like the ruse of giving your tithe or offering so God will bring it back to you.

And God does bless us.
But He is not in the business raising spoiled Christian children who have figured out a way to get what they want.

And all of us have been around a super-spiritual person.
Nobody wants to be around that person.
I was one. I know the inner workings on this topic.
Some of you have seen the shadows of that person still in me.

God help me to be more like Jesus...
and less like a super-Christian.

So for the next several Sundays we are going to spend some time on developing spiritual disciplines - might be better to call them spiritual exercises.

Do not think you can suddenly take on a bunch of these.
I think it would be helpful to practice each discipline as they are taught. Give it focused effort the week after you hear it, then see if you can find a way to keep it active the next week in some small way...just try to do it.

Listen to your heart. Do what you feel inclined to do, but try to start flexing your spiritual muscles.

Do not set high, lofty goals.
Set very reasonable goals. If we stick to our plan, we are going to talk about 12 spiritual disciplines.

If you set reasonable goals for six of these and, even if they seem very small, if you continue in them for six months - these disciplines will become part of your life and will be second nature.

Every discipline you develop will help you with the next area you need to develop.

1 Knowing the Scriptures
+ reading
+ memorizing, meditating
+ study

2 Prayer
+ discursive
+ contemplative

3 Financial Stewardship
+ tithe and offering
+ generosity to others
+ living frugally

4 Fasting
+ eating less
+ cut out one thing

5 Solitude + Silence

6 Journaling

7 Sabbath Rest

8 Worship

9 Service
+ to others
+ to non-believers

10 Submission

11 Confession

12 Affirmation

Reading Scripture
Some of you already read the scripture everyday or several times each week. For those of you who are not flexing this muscle I would ask you to begin reading one chapter each day.

You can easily read the average chapter in five minutes.
A longer chapter might take 10 minutes.

I would suggest reading a chapter from Proverbs or Psalms one day, then the next day start with Matthew (or any other gospel) and read a chapter.

We have a Bible chart that you can use to keep up with where you have read.

If you start tomorrow and read just one chapter each day you could read Matthew, Acts, Romans and 1 Corinthians by the time we conclude our study of spiritual disciplines.



Troy Community Church

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Troy Community Church
Christian Fellowship
1300 Henderson Highway
Troy, AL 36079